Beneath the Big Dipper, beneath the Pleiades, beneath a twinkle carpet of stars against the black-velvet predawn, a procession of rental cars winds up a steep road, twisty with switchbacks. They are all headed to the same place at the same time: the summit of Haleakala—the mighty shield volcano that makes up the east side of the island of Maui—to witness the first, brilliant appearance of dawn. It’s an improbable tourist outing in so many ways, not least of which is the 3 a.m. wake-up call required to arrive before sunrise, driving two to three hours from the oceanfront resorts of Maui to the observation post at the lip of the crater. This is no casual jaunt: From sea level to peak, the altitude rises 10,000 feet, and the route’s most treacherous section must be navigated in utter darkness, without streetlights of any kind. (Oh, and watch out for wandering cows.) Near the top, where the road winds uphill at a white-knuckle pitch, guardrails are conspicuously missing.
From “Waiting for the Sun” by Susan Casey for Sunset, 2016; Photo from Wanderable.com
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